During winter, many animals hibernate and sleep the entire season off. As for humans, we wear coats, layers of clothing, and mufflers and become best friends with the fireplace and thermostat.
Rabbits do not hibernate nor can they wear coats or mufflers during winter (they’d chew them up anyway). Yet your rabbit can somehow survive winter. Whether it can on its own or not, you will find out in the article and hopefully, you can enjoy winter with your furry friend.
How Do Rabbits Survive Winter?
Rabbits can survive any type of weather including winter but only if they have food. So their survival in winter is solely dependent on food and their past diet. They could try to live their normal lives even in winter when they have food; they even seem to prefer cold weather (not excessive cold) to warm weather.
During winter, rabbits grow thicker furs which helps them retain body heat and stay warm. Also their previous diet and body fat can help them survive winter. Also, a safer butch will help them survive winter so they would not have to worry about predators. This means you might have to be extra careful if you have other pets like dogs or cats.
Knowing they might not get plenty of food and greens to eat during winter, they reduce their activities to save their energy. This does not mean they hibernate or sleep; it simply means they do less playing or hopping around.
They do this to minimise the energy they use up because they need the energy more to stay warm. They also reduce their activities to save up food because it’s winter, and food might end up being scarce.
Types of Rabbits That Live In Winter
Every type of rabbit can adapt to winter. It is just that, some seem to adapt better than others. The following are common types of rabbits that adapt easily to winter: \
I. The Californian white rabbit
This breed of rabbit does very well in winter. They have very thick and dense furs. In addition to their thick fur and coat, they have another layer of coat after their fur and before their skin known as an undercoat, that keeps them extra warm during winter.
II. The Belgian Hare
Unlike what its name suggests it is, it is not a hare but a rabbit that resembles a hare. This type of rabbit lives outdoors and adapts to any kind of weather including winter. Their fur are short but thick and also suitable for winter.
III. Cashmere Lop
They are known for their thick long fur. Their fur are quite handy in summer so you will need to trim it frequently. But during winter, their long and thick fur are very helpful for staying warm in winter.
IV. Dutch Rabbit
They are well known for their adaptive nature. They can live well in winter.
What Does a Rabbit Eat In Winter?
Rabbits can eat their normal diet during winter but because it is hard to find fresh grass and green vegetables during winter, they can eat alternatives that are not fresh. But if you can provide your pet rabbit with its usual diet during winter, please do.
It is important to try to feed them food that contains high amounts of fibre to aid digestion as their digestive works slower in winter than in summer.
Here is some food that can be used as an alternative in your pet’s diet during winter:
I. Dry hay, Grass and Straw
Even without winter, 70% of these should be included in your rabbit’s diet. Luckily, it does not become scarce as fresh green or leafy veggies.
You can easily get them not only to feed your rabbit but to also help keep it warm.
II. Woody food like tree bark and twigs: woody food can replace fruits and leafy snacks and also serve as snacks.
Raw unprocessed grains like sorghum, wheat and corn contain fibre and are healthy for your bunny. This is a healthy alternative to fresh leafy vegetables.
IV. Plenty of Water
You would need to hydrate your rabbit so they don’t become dehydrated as they have a higher risk of being dehydrated during winter.
V. Their Faeces
Yes, you read it right. You wouldn’t need to serve them or make them eat their poop. They just do it naturally and instinctively! But rabbits don’t just eat their droppings.
They eat the ones that contain their previous undigested meal. It contains nutrients that couldn’t be digested properly, aids digestion and help during food scarcity.
Although fresh food will be scarce during winter, do not try to give them preserved food or vegetables like canned, processed, cooked or frozen food. Already in warm weather, rabbits cannot digest preserved and processed food properly.
In cold weather, rabbits find it hard to digest even fresh food properly. Serving your rabbit preserved or processed food during winter can cause fatal casualties.
How Do Rabbits Stay Warm In Winter?
Rabbits have thick warm fur that acts like coats and keeps them warm. But during winter, their already thick fur becomes even thicker. Although their fur coat might seem like the perfect insulator to keep them warm, rabbits still need their cage stuffed with straw, hay and even newspapers to keep them extra warm during harsher weather.
Rabbits try to eat lots of food during winter to store body fat. They do this mainly because their bodies convert body fat into heat during the cold weather. There are two types of body fat- white tissue fat and brown tissue fat.
The white tissue fat is responsible for providing warmth for rabbits’ organs; while the brown tissue fat generates heat for the outer body.
The white and brown body fat provides enough body heat to regulate their body temperature so there are never too cold or too hot. Interestingly, their ears do the regulation. Rabbits’ ears are very active during winter as they actively work in regulating the body temperature.
Your rabbit can survive either indoors or outdoors in winter. You only have to be cautious. Keeping your rabbits indoors has its perks and dangers and likewise outdoors.
How Can I Keep Rabbits Warm During Winter
Although rabbits can create body heat and thicker furs, the cold can still get to them if you don’t take precautions. Here are some tips for keeping your rabbits warm during winter-
– Keeping your rabbit indoors is the best way to keep your rabbit warm. But that can be dangerous so you have to take extra precautions. If you want to keep your rabbit indoors, be careful that you keep them away from electric wires as they might be electrocuted.
Your rabbit is also high at risk of being overheated or having heatstroke because the heat produced by a thermostat, stove or fireplace might be too much for your rabbit’s body.
– Adjust your rabbit’s hutch or cage to fit the weather. You might need to move the hutch to a sheltered yet ventilated place like your garage.
If your rabbit’s cage isn’t well rooted, you should roof with thin iron sheets or any other roof your rabbit wouldn’t be able to snack on.
You should also cover the sides of the cage with wood to prevent wind from getting to your rabbit. Inspect the wood from time to time because your rabbit will definitely chew on it.
– You should also stuff the floor of the hutch with hay, straw and grass to help keep them warm. Do this from time to time because your rabbit will eventually eat the straw.
– If you feel your rabbit needs additional warmth, you can put a box in your rabbit’s cage. It must be slightly bigger than your rabbit to give room for ventilation. But it shouldn’t be too big because of the cold.
If you do not have a box in the hutch you can put newspapers in there but don’t ever put blankets there. Your rabbit might want to eat the blanket which can block it digestive tract and make it unable to eat. This might kill your pet.
– You need to provide enough food for your rabbit through winter. Apart from starvation, rabbits need food to produce brown fat which in turn burns into body heat to help your rabbit stay.
– Provide plenty of clean water for your rabbit to drink. It is very easy for rabbits to be dehydrated during winter. You also to take care that water doesn’t spill on your rabbit’s fur as it prevents its body insulators from functioning properly.
Water should be given to the rabbits in a plain dish and should be checked as least twice a day in case it becomes frozen.
You might not want to be outside in the cold so much, but you should always try to check up on your bunny at least once daily. This is to observe their entire well-being.
This might help you notice if your rabbit has any unusual conditions resulting from winter. You might feel your rabbit is entirely safe with you indoors, be sure to keep an eye on it. This will help you and your pet live happily and healthily during winter.